By: Katie Boone
This is the story of how God planted three churches in nine years.
In 2001, Church of the Apostles in Raleigh, North Carolina had its first services. People came from throughout the Triangle; David and Martha Hyman were among the first.
A year later David and his family moved to Vancouver, BC so he could attend seminary at Regent College. In 2005, Church of the Apostles planted All Saints Anglican Church in neighboring Durham and Chapel Hill. About this time David and his family returned to North Carolina and he joined All Saints as Associate Rector.
They settled in Chatham County, forty minutes west of Durham. In search of community, they began a small group with a couple they had first met at Church of the Apostles. The small group was for people who attended All Saints, but lived in the area. They had four families.
“The most amazing thing about our story and even the most encouraging thing that people should be aware of is that this started not out of a strategy to plant a church, but out of a small group,” Hyman says.
The Story We’ve Found Ourselves In
Chatham County is not the ideal place to plant a church. Hyman describes it, lovingly, as odd. It is off the beaten path. Few people pass through. It is an important agricultural resource for North Carolina and populated with family farms. There is a remnant of artists and writers. The best grocery store is a co-op located in a renovated mill. It is weathered, quiet, and exceedingly local.
Hyman says, “If I saw this on paper this is not something I would jump on. This is a smaller place with older character, but this is the story we’ve found ourselves in.”
In 2009, Hyman’s small group began to ask questions about what God was doing right there in their place. With All Saints rector, Rev. Steve Breedlove, they spent three months in prayerful discernment. Each member prayed when he or she was out in the community, but they did not discuss it. After three months everyone finally shared what God had shown him or her and the consensus was to plant.
Three Fold Blessing
“It is a tremendous honor and privilege to see God extending the call to plant churches through this second generation,” Rev. Patrick Dominguez, rector of Church of the Apostles, says, “We are thrilled to see His Kingdom growing and to have a very small hand in it.”
When Hyman approached the Vestry at All Saints in the fall of 2010 the church was only four years old. They had just secured a permanent worship space, launched a second service, and in four years grown from 50 to 250 weekly attendance. There was excitement, but they were still a plant themselves. There were no plans to plant until 2018.
“The vestry had to be really discerning and have wisdom, but you have to set measurable goals out there rather than just saying yes because you want to,” Hyman explains.
Criteria for a church plant were established. If the benchmarks were met then it would be obvious God was doing something in Chatham County and All Saints would have to follow that lead. By January, 2010, Holy Trinity Chatham held its first service and in the summer met monthly over a bar. By this September, they began weekly services and what was a small group of four families a year prior tripled within months.
But the blessing is not just for Holy Trinity Chatham.
“As the sending church, this has inspired and motivated us to think outside of ourselves,” Rev. Steve Breedlove says, “we have given away people, money, and possessions to spread the Gospel further than our reach, and this process has enabled us to really do what we say that we’re about. Since the Sunday we fully released the Holy Trinity people to stop coming to All Saints, our church has added three times as many people as we sent. Every key ministry position that was vacated has been filled twice over with new people who desire to serve.”
Local Expression of Something Larger
Place is central to the vision for Holy Trinity.
“Our vision for this has always been a parish church,” Hyman says, “This is a clear distinction from a lot of church plants. In our context it makes sense here. We’re not a regional church where people will drive from all over to go to church here. In a certain sense we are limiting ourselves. But that is okay. We’re putting roots down and committing to this one place.”
Holy Trinity’s commitment to place manifests itself in different ways. They share space with a United Methodist congregation who were about to lose their building. Hyman describes the relationship as collaborative; they are pooling resources to open a food pantry. He says they are not competitive, but are pulling for each other to succeed for the sake of the kingdom.
They also seek to participate in the things that make Chatham County distinct. The church reserved a booth for an upcoming local street fair. There will be information about the church, Hyman says, but the main intention is to participate in the beauty and display the work of artists in the church.
And they have been intentional about what God is doing in the community. As a church they are asking God for the one issue, if addressed well, would make a real difference for the marginalized and oppressed in Chatham County. Hyman sees the work they do as a local expression of something much bigger because they are a church planted by a church.
“It was huge for All Saints to recognize and bless what God was doing here in Chatham County. They held us accountable and acted as the voice of authority on behalf of the larger church,” Hyman says, “This isn’t about a church planter going off and doing his own thing. This is the ripple effect.”
All pictures were taken by Martha Manning and used with permission.
This article appears on the Anglican 1000 website.